A mother’s love: When her son needed a kidney, a Yarmouth mom donates one of hers – TheChronicleHerald.ca


YARMOUTH, N.S. —

A couple of weeks after this past Mother’s Day, a special gift was exchanged between a Yarmouth mother and her son.

It came without hesitation. 

It didn’t come wrapped in a box.

Rather, it was surrounded by love.

From before the time Bradley Verran was born, it was known there was an issue with his kidneys. Something had shown up during his mother Patti’s 18-week ultrasound during her pregnancy.

The family always knew that someday a kidney transplant might not only be a possibility, but a necessity.

And so when the time came, just after Bradley had turned 19 last May 30, his mom gave him one of her kidneys.

Gifts don’t get much more special than that and the family is sharing its story in the hope that more people will consider being a living organ donor.

The Verran family at the Yarmouth home: Patti, Bradley, Brenna, Gerry and their dog Shadow. – Tina Comeau

Growing up

From a very young age, Bradley’s life involved doctors, nurses, hospitals, medications and tests. He was in and out of the hospital for about a week every month for the first two years of his life, when he was often prone to infections in his bladder.

His whole life, he’s taken a handful of pills in the morning and handful of pills at night. His diet has always been restricted.

Still, how all of this was affecting his life wasn’t something that Bradley realized on a daily basis.

That’s because, for him, living like this was the norm.

It was all he had ever known.

“He was born with the issues so he’s never known the difference,” his father Gerry says. “Maybe now, as he’s feeling better, he can reflect back and say, ‘I’ve never felt like this before.’ But in the past, he didn’t know that him feeling tired all the time was not normal.”

Besides, the family tried hard to make Bradley’s life as “normal” as it could be.

“We tried hard not to create too much of a bubble,” his mother says, even though it was tempting. “We even let him play hockey, but he had to be a goalie. But he loved being a goalie, so it worked.”

And then there was that other team by Bradley’s side, from the time he was born to the present day — his medical team.

Things changed

And so as time went on it was pretty-much assumed there could two options in Bradley’s future — a kidney transplant or dialysis.

Dialysis was definitely always something his family had hoped to avoid.

Health-wise, in his teenage years, things weren’t always great, but they also weren’t always bad. In June 2018, Bradley graduated from high school. The family was thinking maybe they had made it through the worst of it.

“But it didn’t work out that way,” Patti says.

Things changed as Bradley was getting ready to start university in September 2018. He missed his first day of classes at Acadia University because of a doctor’s appointment and by the time Christmas rolled around, Bradley’s kidney function had decreased to the point where it was decided that he would be put on a transplant list.

His mother was already focusing on a gift that Christmas, and not the kind you find under a tree. “Christmas Eve, I started my phone calls to see if I’m a match,” she says.

Bradley Verran gives a thumbs-up while in the hospital for his transplant. – Family photo

Were they nervous about the transplant?

“I wasn’t,” Bradley says. “I just knew I had to do it. The alternative would have been worse.” After it was determined he would be placed on the transplant list Bradley was admitted to the hospital for a week where he underwent a battery of tests.

When Patti started her process of being tested to see if she was a match as a living donor, she admits it was an emotional experience.

“You’re getting everything checked. I had to get a mammogram. I had to get everything done, CT scan, etc. Every step you’re like, ‘Are they going to find something?’ which is silly because I didn’t have a reason to think that, but still, you think that.”

But for mother and son, it all worked out. The family was told there were nine or 10 medical markers that doctors would be looking for from Patti. She was an eight out of nine, or a nine out of 10 — they don’t remember specifically.

In other words, not a 100-per-cent perfect match, but pretty darn close.

Still, there were times when Patti worried she would be rejected as a donor, especially when it was determined that one of her kidneys was smaller than the other and she wouldn’t be able to donate from the larger one. She worried something could go wrong.

Fortunately, it didn’t, especially since Bradley only had about 12 to 13 per cent kidney function left.

Yarmouth resident and mother Patti Verran says she hopes more and more people will consider being a living organ donor. – Family photo

Transplant time

The big day, as they call it, was set for May 30, 2019.

On the day Patti and Bradley were on their way to Halifax in preparation for the transplant — and Gerry was driving back from the States after having picked up their daughter Brenna, who attends school in the U.S. but wanted to be with her family for the transplant — they received a call while everyone was on the road telling them the ICU was full and there was a chance they might not be able to have the transplant done as scheduled.

For the Verrans, turning back wasn’t an option.

“We said we are going, we are showing up, they are admitting us and they are going to have to tell us to our face that they’re cancelling it. I am not saying, ‘OK, I’m turning around,’” Patti says. “Gerry was days on the road and I said, ‘Nope, keep coming!,’” she says laughing.

Their doctor appreciated their tenacity.

“In hindsight, our doctor said he was glad we did because too many people get a phone call like that and say, ‘OK, let’s just postpone,’” Gerry says.

Even though technically he was an adult, Bradley was admitted to the IWK, where he had been cared for since being born. Patti was admitted to the VG. The transplant went ahead as scheduled, with the same surgeon removing the kidney from Patti and transplanting it into Bradley — albeit with a bit of a rest break in between the two surgeries, although not a long one.

The Verrans can’t speak highly enough about all the doctors and nurses that have been involved in Bradley’s care and were part of the transplant.

“They work so hard,” Patti says. “They’re all so caring.”

For Patti, the surgery was to be done by laparoscopy, although a small complication meant she did require a further incision. Still, her recovery went well and quickly.

Due to complications that arose for Bradley, however, he did spend more time in the hospital that had been anticipated — months, actually — but he’s now feeling like he did years ago and the prognosis is that he will continue to feel better as time goes on.

Bradley had been both on a living donor list and a deceased donor list. It was a matter of whichever came first.

Last year, Nova Scotia became the first jurisdiction in North America to pass legislation for presumed consent for organ and tissue donation. Once proclaimed into law, you won’t opt in as a donor, it’s presumed everyone is a potential donor unless they opt out. The Verrans support this change, but they also hope in cases where it is an option, more and more people will consider the living organ-donor option.

After all, says Patti, you can save lives.

The mom says she has no regrets about being a living donor and that she’d make the same choice all over again if she had to — whether the recipient was family or a stranger.

Of course, in this case the fact that it was her son Bradley meant that not only was Patti giving him a kidney, but also a large part of her heart.

Patti Verran and her son Bradley. – Family photo

FYI: Living donations

A donated kidney from someone who is still living tends to last a little longer than a kidney from a deceased donor.  This is because the kidney is healthier, and it’s likely to be a better genetic match to you.  Your doctors will also be able to schedule the surgery for a time when you and your donor are at your healthiest. If someone you know is willing to donate a kidney but isn’t a match for you, they may be able to take part in paired donation.  In that case their kidney would go to another kidney transplant patient, and that person’s living donor would donate their kidney to you.  The national Kidney Paired Donation Program is operated by Canadian Blood Services together with Canada’s various living donation and kidney transplant programs.  

(Source: Kidney Foundation of Canada)


Learn more about kidney disease, reseach, transplants, etc. Click here to visit the Atlantic Canada branch of the Kidney Foundation of Canada.


Why are kidneys important?

Kidneys regulate water: For your body to work properly, it must contain just the right amount of water. Kidneys remove excess water from the body or to retain water when the body needs more.

Kidneys help to balance the body’s mineral: The body needs minerals for good health, but they must be kept at certain levels. When the kidneys are working properly, extra minerals, such as sodium and potassium, leave your body in the urine. The kidneys also help to adjust the levels of other minerals, such as calcium and phosphate.

Kidneys remove waste products: Your kidneys help remove waste products from your body. 

Kidneys produce hormones: Normal kidneys also make important chemicals in your body called hormones. These hormones circulate in the bloodstream and regulate blood pressure, red blood cell production and the calcium balance in your body.

(Source: Kidney Foundation of Canada)



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